For the second consecutive year, Maine has been listed as the top state for animal welfare and protection laws, according to a report by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

The fund’s year-end ranking report is organized into three tiers: top, middle and bottom, and determines the effectiveness of animal welfare legislation in each state.

In the top tier, Maine ranks first out of fifteen, followed by Illinois, Oregon and Colorado.

Maine earned the top spot because state lawmakers have led the way in passing important animal protection measures, according to information released by the Animal Legal Defense Fund. For example, care requirements, such as food, water and shelter are clearly defined under state law. Courts might also require convicted offenders to undergo mental health evaluations or treatment, and protection orders may include animals.

The legislation’s effectiveness is in Mainers’ efforts to enforce it, steered in part by the state’s many pet owners, animal lovers and others who work with animals.

“It is important to care about animal welfare legislation because strong laws protect animals by addressing the root causes of cruelty and can drive change that will make our communities better — for animals and people,” said Katie Hansberry, the senior state director of state affairs in Maine for the Humane Society of the United States. “While direct care services respond to today’s cruelties, legislative and policy work prevent tomorrow’s.”


Based in Gaithersburg, Maryland, the Humane Society of the United States oversees better care for animals in crisis by lobbying against cruel practices, such as those reportedly used in the fur trade and animal cosmetics.

Hansberry is now lobbying for the approval of LD 1744, An Act To Increase Funding for the Animal Welfare Fund of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, which aims to enforce animal cruelty laws within the state and increase compensation rates for shelters caring for seized animals.

In Maine, postconviction forfeiture of an animal is not required for all animal cruelty crimes, and convicted offenders are not mandated to pay the cost of caring for their seized animals.

“The state of Maine has positioned itself to be a leader in animal welfare, because of our ability to collaborate as animal welfare advocates, as well as collaborating with our legislators to get these protections in place for animals who need them,” said Patsy Murphy, executive director of the Animal Refuge League of Greater Portland.

“We provide assistance and we educate the community about animal welfare issues impacting us as a collective state.”

The Animal Refuge League is a temporary shelter that seeks to combat animal neglect, abuse and overpopulation through community advocacy and prioritization of an animal’s quality of life.


“In Maine, animals are viewed as family members, they are valued and they are cherished (as) part of the integral family unit,” Murphy said. “Many families have multi-species households, which is also a really cool representation of the kindness and the compassion that made people have.”

The APPA National Pet Owners Survey, a biennial study conducted by the American Pet Products Association, has determined 70% of households own a pet, which equates to about 90 million people.

A separate study, by the American Veterinary Medical Association, found half of Maine’s population are pet owners, with cat owners at 43.6%.

Katie Lisnik, executive director of the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society, was appointed to the Animal Welfare Advisory Council in October 2021. She was asked to help with efforts to accommodate the needs of licensed animal shelters by ensuring smooth application of new legislation and promoting educational programs they have enacted.

“I’m representing not just myself,” Lisnik said. “There are well-funded organizations and there are shelters located in rural areas that have very few staff members that really rely on volunteer time, so I am trying to take a look at proposed legislation and think about what is needed for the state from that more holistic point of view.

“It’s not just the larger shelters. It’s also thinking about how the small places are going to be impacted by the changes in policy, and how to best support them.”

To learn more about the work that these organizations are doing in Maine and what you can do to help, visit the Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry’s website — — for a list shelters and facilities. 

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